The Jade: a comfortable ship, many dining options, ok entertainment, nice casino, odd decor for the Med - (originally designed for Hawaii). All in all a 3.5 out of 5. The suite (courtyard villa): Nice, but not suitable for 5 people unless three are small children. Other people on the same level with the same suites paid MUCH less - not such a nice surprise. Yet another couple (yes, only two people) were upgraded from a balcony to the three bedroom suite... again - not a nice thing to find out when you've paid what we did and find yourselves quite cramped. The fourteenth deck - VERY nice... the Courtyard and the service exceptional. Option for breakfast and lunch at Cagney's - life/mental health saver.
The food: The main dining rooms were ok - not stellar. The Blue Lagoon restaurant was horrible food, yes, horrible. The other restaurants were good - only, when you're paying top dollar for a suite, you do get a little frustrated at having to pay extra yet again so as not to have to sit through an insanely loud dinner in one of the main dining rooms.
Teen club: AMAZING - the staff (esp. Andre and Loco) were exceptional - almost too good - couldn't get the kids to obey curfew ;-)
Drinks: too expensive and the "Pub" doesn't have enough selections.
Internet: too expensive esp. for suites.
Butler/Concierge/housekeeping staff: - awesome! Made, Monica, Javier and Melchor - you truly made our trip!!!
Captain: very gracious!
Ports of call: My biggest beef HAS to be that Athens (our main purpose for this itinerary) was cancelled (beyond anyone's control) and the port they chose to go into was Messina. NOT a comparable port by ANY stretch of the imagination. They would have been better off going to Naples or staying an extra day in Malta/Izmir or anywhere else for that matter. In Messina there was literally NOTHING to see ... unless you drove to Taormina.
Excusions: Rome: we booked a private car... amazing. Messina - as I mentioned earlier Izmir/Ephesus - we haggled for a cab - quite an adventure, but again, MUCH better than the feedback we got from people who took the NCL tours. Alexandria/Cairo: here we decided to book through the ship since we weren't sure what to expect. Hindsight - wouldn't do it again. You had 10-20 minutes anywhere you went and we were shuttled around like cattle. You spent more time getting on/off the bus and waiting in line with the other 500 people on the other buses (major convoy with security guards who were sleeping) than acutally seeing something worthwhile... and they spent most of the time telling you to buy only form them "the government approved store" instead of from vendors or other shops. We discovered that the prices were almost triple. Malta: I met up with a girlfriend of mine who lives there, ... so again no NCL tour and it was amazing.
Freestyle cruising : pros and cons... the biggest cons for us was the noise level in the main ("free")dining rooms. People are up and down like jack-in-the-boxes so it's not a nice experience at all. The cafeteria was good for the kids on sea days, no complaint about the food per se, but it's a free-for-all with no manners or courtesy.
Another con: people seem to forget that they are surrounded by other people - some attire is simply not acceptable anywhere, and certianly not on a cruise or in a dining room - EVEN when Freestyle Cruising.
Overall Service: with the exception of one or two individuals (which you will find in any organization), the service and the smiles were great.
All in all a great trip but I would certainly do a few things differently the next time.